A penetrating, shrill pick slide and a warped image of a warped burning check feed into each other before cutting to a clip of rockabilly musician Charlie Megira performing in Oakland-based music studio, Grassy Null.
The studio, formerly an unused guest house, is run by Brendan Casey and engineer Kyle Day. Bands that have recorded at Grassy Null include The Beekeepers, The Cough Syrup Kids and The Peels, all from Oakland, and Los Angeles punk group Vaguess.
Shooting live performance videos started about a year ago, and seven months later, after Casey found video editor Michael Zamora, who plays in bAdbAd, the clips started coming together. Each video is shot on a VHS camera, giving them an extra eerie feel.
Brendan answered a few questions we had for him about Grassy Null, working with Charlie and, as they say in anywhere north of L.A. county, “hella” fresh pie.
How did you get in contact with Charlie for the project?
I think we just hit Charlie up via Facebook, I’m always amazed at how easy it is to get in touch with folks that way. We knew Alexa, who was drumming for him at the time, from some of her other stellar projects Pang, Turner, The World. The whole thing fell together pretty quickly. We were all big fans of the Love Police record Charlie did and were quite excited to do something with him. I’d actually been visiting my little brother in Berlin not too long before we shot it, and it was a trip seeing all these Charlie Megira posters in all the bars we went to ‘cause he used to be located out there.
What was it like working with him? He seems like such a character when he performs live!
He was quite a character, in the best way! He definitely had the strongest “vibe” of any band that we’ve worked with. At first he was kind of shy, but when they’d start playing, he’d just be on that other level and maintain that intensity throughout. I also loved how at least five or six times they’d be two thirds or so through a song, have it sounding absolutely great, and he’d just stop and casually go “Nope, nope, it’s wrong, the feeling’s not right, let’s start over.” It was pretty cool to work with someone who took their art that seriously.
I also loved when we all grabbed Thai food afterwards that it’s this guy dressed up, fully to the nine from some weird time warp, casually ordering Pad Thai or whatever and the next table over is a dad in Tevas and a Northface Jacket. Pretty surreal.
I love the altar scene and candle images that overlap the performance footage, whose idea was that? Why did you choose that imagery?
That was Kyle and Dan. Depending on who’s free, different people will shoot different B-Roll. A friend of a friend had left a bunch of checks at our house, and we were going to recycle or shred them. K-Day and Dan Dan decided to embrace the mysterious/nostalgic side of Charlie’s music and burn those suckers down.
Our basement has some fairly creepy vibes, so they built up that alter. It’s worth mentioning how much of these videos is happy accidents. There’s a lot of syncing up of fire bursts being on Charlie’s face when he screams. None of that was intentional. We’d go back and run both clips at the same time, and 90% of the time they’d coincidentally wind up looking great together from the first go round.
Does each band get to chose different b-roll, or is that strictly up to the filmmakers
I wouldn’t say that it’s strictly up to us, but we pretty much go for it on our own and then run the videos by the bands before premiering them. While we shot the Violence Creeps live footage, the band’s guitarist Dan Shaw edited that one. He makes really fantastic music videos, check Youtube under the name Huffingduster. They added in all the extra weird shots of random shit.
Were any fingers burned in the making of this video?
No fingers were burned, but a series of a fragile hearts were scorched
What’s next for your series?
The next videos coming up are from Mall Walk, Baus, our friend Alex Rather Taylor, Seattle-based Nail Polish and Los Angeles’ very own Froth. That’ll be the end of Vol. 1 for the Null. Rob from Mall Walk has a record label, Vacant Stare, and they’re gonna release a tape of the audio from all the live sessions. Kyle and I are figuring out all the bands we want to book for Vol. 2 right now, there’s a lot of good ‘uns.
What’s your favorite kind of pie?
I’d probably gravitate towards French Apple, ‘cause it’s got that hella fresh crumble on top.